Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Front Porch

Ghandi said  
"Where there is love, there is life." 

Love is a wonderful, amazing, powerful, and addictive need. It's the nuclear fuel that powers us when we have it ... and the crippling blow that stops us cold when taken away. Love is our most powerful joy hanging by a fine thread connected to our greatest pain.

Once upon a time, America loved itself. It loved what it was, what it was going to be. We look at ourselves now and realize we are a pale shadow of the moral greatness we once held ourselves up to be. And isn't that the journey of every people and civilization throughout history? We begin with tremendous promise and fiery passion, then relax and settle into the reflection of our illusions only to quickly lose the heart and spirit of what we are supposed to be.

I look at our hometowns, our communities and the world and wonder, "What is so different today that has changed from a few decades ago, when we were riding high on the belief of everything we thought we could be?"

It occurred to me that, among other things, we have lost our sense of home. Our sense of belonging. Our sense of community. We are the most transient and unstable generation in America's history. We work in cubicles, make two dimensional friends online, limit our communication with each other to 140 character tweets, and live in apartments and neighborhoods without ever meeting or caring to know our neighbors.

We lost our sense of "front porches."

Heck, they don't even make them on a new home anymore. They were abandoned with the advent of air conditioning and television. Once the center stage of a family's community spirit and joy, the front porch was where neighbors gathered for music and fellowship, coffee in the morning, ice tea in the afternoon, and watching the moon settle over the trees in autumn. It's where a young man would court the girl of his dreams on a porch swing while her family stood vigil inside the home.

To me, the Front Porch has three meanings: the literal, actual front porch on a home. The emotional front porch of finding the love of your life and having her near. And the global, universal front porch between nations. Those three viewpoints are bound up in the title song of my new CD.

The songs of the "Front Porch" album are mostly about family, love and the powerful key that makes it work: forgiveness. The entire album is a look at the emotional front porch we all desperately search for. The release will give me a chance to sing, explore and discuss some matters that I find personally enriching and important, and I look forward to this in the weeks and months to come.

Ghandi said "Where there is love, there is life."
I used to believe that, but not anymore.

I have learned in time that so many function everyday battered by rejection, they exist without love as they search for emotional paradise. As a matter of fact, most of us live within the prison of extreme disappointment and heartbreak. And it's a double edged sword. Usually the one growing up without love is the first to withdraw love from those closest to them ... leaving them, in the end, as alone as the one they rejected.

The road to paradise is fraught with pot holes and barriers. Forgiveness is the bridge that carries us over every obstacle. Forgiveness is the fuel that powers love forever. It is the glue and binding that holds our inner front porch together. Without forgiveness, love is weak and fragile, it crumbles and withers from the slightest heat.

Ghandi should have said,  
"Where there is forgiveness ... love will last forever."

That is the only possible road map to the lovely, poetic, calm, and peaceful paradise that I want ... the inner front porch that we all ache for deeply, whether we acknowledge it or not.

(you can hear the song by clicking the play button)

Friday, July 22, 2011

WOODSONGS III: Excerpt from my next book:

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book "WoodSongs III: A Folksinger's Song Book, Social Commentary and Front Porch Manual" due out later this year ... about the aftermath of growing up in a violent, alcoholic home:

“Abandonment is no less a betrayal than adultery; no less cruel than abuse; no less painful than death ..."

It’s like being adrift in a stormy black sea, losing sight of your location, losing sight of the shore. You can’t breath and you can’t keep your head above the churning waters no matter how hard you try as you desperately strain to navigate yourself toward anything that resembles safe land.

And that land is “Love,” and “Family” and “Home” and the unattainable idea that you can ever be loved. Arriving at dry harbor, tired and exhausted and unsure, you crawl toward a dream seeking an allusive paradise of affection and confidence that you are completely untrained and unprepared to recognize. Love becomes an crushing internal tsunami that you do not understand, yet desperately need.

You drag yourself upon the sandy shore with no maps, no navigation, no sense of direction. It’s like walking through an island peppered with land mines, detonating and exploding around you. With each step you cup your ears in anticipation of the next thunderous roar of heartache, because you are used to it. You expect it. You have learned the art of tolerating the intolerable as you keep moving forward no matter what ... hating every moment of it and yet unable to change it. And the relationships that you form seem to be with others walking the same path, others nearest who are navigating the same mine fields.

And when you finally find that delicate rose of love, that paradise of home and family, that precious and unkind ‘moment of deception’ where you actually think you are being ‘loved-no-matter-what’ and you give your whole self, your whole heart and life force to it ... the storm winds of your youth come surging back as the mines explode at your feet. You are left alone in complete disbelief as you again pick up the smoldering, chard pieces of every dream you had.

And when the smoke finally clears and the thunder subsides, you step forward again ... with a little more fear than before, cupping your ears and bracing, waiting, anticipating the next moment of detonation.”

(Michael Johnathon c2011/Rachel Aubrey Music Inc/BMI)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

My Friend

Some friends in life capture your attention by riveting your mind and heart as if they were a spectacular comet exploding through the sky and bursting upon the horizon.

Larry Steur was not that guy.

He was the gentle rain cloud that would softly descend upon a dry land, quietly coaxing flower petals to life, to open wide and soak up the rays of the morning sun.

Larry was the reason art and music existed. He was the audience. He was the applause. Larry was the happy man with a camera on the third row at festivals and concert halls all over America. My friend had a wide-eyed fascination with life, but he never took center stage. He never stepped into a spot light. Instead, Larry would carry the spotlight into the balcony so others could be seen by it. He was a kind, generous, wonderful, loving, forgiving, innocent, musical and passionate friend.

His passion was inspiring. So much so that, when I wrote the Walden play, I gave his last name to the character of Rachel Steur. It seemed to fit.

Larry was in the front row the day we started WoodSongs.

This past Monday night, Larry was still in the front row of WoodSongs, clicking away on his camera as he did every week. He was chatty and excited because I asked him if he would like to pick Emmylou Harris up at the airport when she arrived in a couple of weeks. And I will forever treasure the look on his face when, at the end of the broadcast, Dorothy Edwards announced on the show credits that "...our WoodSongs Crew member of the week is the incredibly handsome Larry Steur ..." and he stood there with that massive grin, smiling cheek to cheek.

My last words to Larry happened after the show, patting him on the back and telling him "thank you" as he lifted a speaker off the stand, helping pack up and put away the broadcast gear ... the way he did every single week.

This morning he passed away. It was a quiet sunny morning, springtime softly stroking the earth awake as he energetically executed his power-walk through his neighborhood in Lexington with his friend and walking buddy Mitchell.

He didn't know that today would be his final walk. He didn't know that today would be his final morning.

But it was a sunny morning. He was with his friend. He was moving fast the way he loved to do. And, heck, he was even looking forward to hanging out with Emmylou Harris!

Larry left us the way he lived: grinning ear-to-ear.

I shall miss my friend always.

Michael Johnathon